Happy May, friends!
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I feel like 2023 is on super-speed — like a sudden onset of delayed FOMO has happened, and all the pie slices of my life are furiously trying to make up for lost time and opportunities. (Just me? Always was a late bloomer.)
And because I am always, always my own worst enemy, I decided, “Oh! I know! On top of everything else going on, I should write something for TME this month.” Because, you know what? May is an important month to me, and I love you guys, and I have THINGS to share that cannot wait! (And, really, what’s a few more nights of sleep deprivation in the grand scheme of things?)
Celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Watch, Listen, Read, Shop
Soooo…I’ve been participating in and organizing various celebrations of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage during the month of May — literally since high school — and this year I finally learned why it happens in May! Isn’t that ridiculous? In case you’re like me and didn’t know, it’s because May is the month when the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the U.S. (in 1843) and also the month when the transcontinental railroad was completed (in 1869), due in large part to the labor of Chinese immigrants.
Clearly, I’m not here to give a history lesson.
Instead, I’m here to share something I feel at least moderately qualified in doing: recommendations for leisure time and escapism!
Last year, I jokingly challenged my kids to only watch and read things either written by people of API descent or featuring API main characters for the whole month of May. I really didn’t think it was possible, because historically, we’re not well represented in entertainment media. Spoiler alert! It was not much of a challenge.
I was pleasantly surprised by how many more options there are now, compared to when I grew up, where we had “The Joy Luck Club” and “All-American Girl,” and not much else for the next 25 years. (And you can bet I watched everything I could find — still have a soft spot in my heart for Harold & Kumar and am not ashamed to admit it.)
So, if you’d like to play along, here are the shows, movies, books and businesses my family and I enjoy that meet the challenge criteria above. (I’ve grouped them by fives in keeping with the May theme.) My kids are currently 7 and 9.5 for reference. I’ve split up the media recommendations by age groups and included businesses that do online sales.
AAPI Heritage Month: The Best TV Shows, Movies & Documentaries To Watch (All Ages)
Shows & Shorts
Movies & Documentaries
Mira, Royal Detective (Disney+)
Abby Hatcher (Netflix)
The Little Prince(ss) (short) (Disney+)
Avatar: The Last Airbender (Netflix)
Lilo & Stitch (Disney+)
Wish Dragon (Netflix)
Big Hero 6 (Disney+)
Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney+)
Ms. Marvel (Disney+)
Kim’s Convenience (Netflix)
Patriot Act (Netflix)
Never Have I Ever (Netflix)
Mythic Quest (Apple TV+)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings (Disney+)
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Series (Netflix)
38 at the Garden (documentary) (HBO Max)
Blinded by the Light (HBO Max)
Starstruck (HBO Max)
Pachinko (Apple TV+)
Bridgerton, Season 2 (Netflix)
The Problem with Apu (documentary)
Fire Island (Hulu)
5 AAPI Shows & Movies I Watch On Repeat + Highly Recommend
- My Neighbor Totoro (and other Miyazaki faves!) (HBO Max)
- Over the Moon (Netflix)
- Moana (Disney+)
- Fresh Off the Boat (series) (Hulu)
- Crazy Rich Asians – Like comfort viewing to me!
5 AAPI Shows & Movies I Can’t Wait To Watch
- Lyle, Lyle Crocodile (Netflix)
- American Born Chinese (series) (Disney+)
- Paper Girls (series) (Amazon Prime)
- The Chair (series) (Netflix)
- Minari (movie)
AAPI Heritage Month: Spotify Playlist
And just for playing along with me, here’s a link to a Spotify playlist that I’ve now spent way too much time curating, filled with some awesome Asian American & Pacific Islander artists, from the mega-famous (why, hello there, Olivia and Bruno!) and soundtrack hits to some indie darlings and international faves. I think there’s something for everyone on here.
AAPI Heritage Month: The Best Books For All Ages (Early Reader to Adult)
Consider buying your books from Eastwind Books, a store I grew up with in Berkeley that was one of the first Asian American-owned bookstores in the country! They closed their brick-and-mortar store recently, but are still doing online sales.
Early Readers/Chapter Books
Middle-Grade & Young Adult Graphic Novels
Teen/Young Adult Books
Next Books On My Reading List
AAPI Heritage Month: Where To Shop
This year, I’m going to up the ante as well as challenge myself to support at least five new-to-me AAPI-owned businesses and restaurants. For me, this is all a fun way to discover some gems that may not have the same marketing/publicity resources or would otherwise not be on my radar. And then I get to share my exciting finds with all of you! Yay!
What’s not to love about a well-curated selection of Japanese goods?
My daughter and I fight over Our Place’s pretty and well-designed layered lunchbox, and I can’t wait to try some of the cookware pieces that the TME gang raves about!
Last year, we bought a beautiful tansu from Eastern Classics Asian Furniture & Antiques to use as a dresser and LOVE IT.
OK, fine, Muji kind of sells everything, but it’s the home and office stuff I return to over and over again!
If you’re ever in the East Bay, definitely check out the cute Morningtide Shop with a super-thoughtful selection of goods. It hosts fun pop-ups too!
Small-space dweller, rejoice! These Yamazaki furniture pieces are so clever and functional (& inspired by life in Japan).
Feed the Fish Co. creates beautiful, cheerful hand-cut felt and other crafts and kits! Full disclosure: Erin’s a good friend of mine, and I love her to pieces.
The chocolates from Formosa are so pretty you almost don’t want to eat them. Almost.
Tea Drops has so many fun teas and combos, without the tea-bag microplastics and waste or the messiness of loose-leaf tea. Yes, please!
Additional Thoughts & Notes
- Streaming platforms are shown in parentheses wherever possible, but content on the different platforms seems to change a lot, so you may want to double-check.
- For the non-adult categories, I’ve arranged them roughly in order of youngest to oldest, based on my best guess for enjoyment and age-appropriateness. Take a look at Common Sense Media for more description and age ratings!
- Interested in parent/educator resources? Here are two amazing websites I keep returning to:
- Did you guys know there’s a badge on the Target app and online for the AAPI-owned businesses? I had to scroll pretty far down to find it this year, but it was a nice way to discover new-to-me products. (I’m so, so tempted to make this a public Google sheet with filters, so that I can just go ahead and list all the things. Not even kidding, not even a little bit.)
Obviously, I’m only scratching the surface with these different lists — it was so hard to narrow it all down, which is thrilling! Please tell me all your faves in the comments below!
And, of course, our enjoyment and recognition of Asian American & Pacific Islander heritage and stories need not, and should not, be confined to the month of May. I would love to one day reach a point where learning about and celebrating each other’s heritage happens year-round. Plus, Asia is a ginormous continent! One month cannot even begin to cover stories from all these amazing countries and cultures. But for now, I’ll do what I can with what I have. And to the entertainment execs out there, keep it up! Let’s all say it together, guys: Representation Matters!
All right, enough of my jibber-jabber, go get your bubble tea, sprinkle some furikake or garam masala on that bowl of popcorn, order in some dumplings, lumpia or pho (all of the above, please!), and go escape!